Betrothal and The Serialized Novel

Wickimedia Commons

Wickimedia Commons

Short fiction has certainly been revived by the advent of the e-book and e-reader.  Short stories and novellas abound whereas fifteen years ago you found them only in anthologies. So I was not surprised to find that another form of short fiction had returned–the serialized novel.  And the news came at a good time for me, because I found that I was actually publishing one.

A serialized novel is a long novel that is published, usually in a newspaper or magazine, in monthly or weekly installments.  Today the increments can also be published as stand alone chapters or novellas rather than in a standard publication.

According to Alexandra Alter’s Wall Street Journal article, The Return of the Serial Novel, “Serialized fiction, an all-but-lost art form that was practiced by such literary giants as Charles Dickens, Leo Tolstoy and Joseph Conrad, is rebounding in the digital era.”  

Although the serial novel first appeared in the 17th century with the advent of movable type, the form became extremely fashionable during the Victorian era.  An increase in literacy, advances in printing technology, and a stronger economy all brought about the

Wickimedia Commons

Wickimedia Commons

surge in serialized novels.  The wild popularity of Charles Dickens’ The Pickwick Papers, proved the viability of the form and set the standard for serialized fiction during the 19th century.

Today, the serialized novel is making a come-back.  We are a society that wants things “on the go” or in “bite-sized bits.”  Thus the appeal of a serial novel that one can read chapter by chapter on an e-reader.  

Zach Bonelli, author of the serial novel Voyage, talks about the specific pros and cons of writing a serial novel in his article Monetizing Serialized Fiction.  “Choosing to go serialized is a mixed bag. There are some big advantages, but also some important disadvantages to consider.”

Perhaps the number one drawback to the serial format is reader dissatisfaction with the lack of an HEA in each installment.   “‘I am really sick of sitting down to read this book and just when you are enjoying it, it ends,’ one Amazon reviewer seethed. ‘Release the whole book, I would enjoy it more,’ another wrote.” (The Return of the Serial Novel)

Betrothal with LogoThis seems to be the biggest problem, according to reviewers, with my novella Betrothal.  The first part or book of the longer work, Time Enough to Love, Betrothal is roughly 1/3 of the complete work.  The end of the novella has been called “disappointing” and “rushed” by various reviewers.  Though it does not have a cliffhanger ending exactly (I think of it as a “Happy For Now” type of closure), Betrothal still leaves the reader with the feeling that there is more to follow.  So if the reader is not aware that this is Book 1 of 3, they aren’t as forgiving with the lack of a happy ending.

Another  unfortunate thing  in my case is that the release of Book 2, Betrayal, has been held up.  I had hoped that it would be published by the end of July and that did not happen.  I do understand the frustration of readers who may forgive the “cliffhanger” ending if the next work is released quickly.  My apologies for this to all who have read Betrothal.

Betrayal is currently with my editor and I’m expecting the next round of edits at any time. To ease the misconception and appease the reader, as soon as Chapter 1 of Betrayal has been edited, I’ll re-release Betrothal with the addition of that chapter at the end of the novella.  I’ll also publish it on my blog for those who have already purchased Betrothal. And when Betrayal is published, it will have the completed first chapter of Beleaguered, Book 3 of the novel, at the end of it.  I will also work very hard to release Book 3 closer to Book 2. 

To my readers, please be patient.  The story of Alyse, Geoffrey and Thomas is far from over.  There are events brewing that will change the course of their lives, for better and for worse.  I hope you will keep following this love story through its twists and turns to its final, satisfying end.

Have you read other serialized novels?  Do you like this format or do you prefer a complete novel no matter the size?

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This entry was posted in Betrothal, On Time Enough to Love, On Works in Progress, WIP and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

22 Responses to Betrothal and The Serialized Novel

  1. Tina B says:

    I am not a fan of the serialized novels, at least not until the complete story is out.
    I get anxious waiting for that HEA. However, I LOVED Betrothal!! 😉

    Like

  2. Brenda D says:

    I love Serial novels. Seriously, lol. Green Mile was a serial novel, the Dark Tower–Gunslinger novels–by Stephen King are serial novels–and I LOVE THEM.
    I say bring back the serial novel!

    Like

    • Jenna Jaxon says:

      🙂 You and I seriously need to sit down and discuss our obsession with Stephen King. Love his work–especially Dark Tower. And you are correct–Both Green Mile and Dark Tower are serial. I was so upset that it took so long to get to book 7 that I sat down and read it non-stop once it released. Perhaps the serial novel appeals only to certain people. Obviously it appeals to us. 🙂 i hope others will give it a go as well.

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  3. I think serialized novels may do better in other genres. In romance expect that HEA payoff and are disappointed if they don’t get it. As another commenter said, sometimes people don’t realize they are getting a serialized novel and their disappointment stems from that.

    If I remember correctly the first time I read Stephen King’s The Green Mile it was in a serialized version. I still have the series of paperbacks that make up the whole novel.

    And of course those serialized novels from the Victorian era were so popular because they came out in the newspapers and those newspapers were passed from person to person. People actually READ newspapers in those days, voraciously so.

    I think serial novels will find their place in today’s world and I think the romance genre will eventually make it in this form as well.

    I LOVE this series, Jenna and I am looking forward to reading the rest of it!

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    • Jenna Jaxon says:

      Thank you, Louisa! When I hear the words “serial novel” I immediately think of The Green Mile (I have all six paperbacks too!) as that was the first time I’d run across such a concept. And I would breathlessly await each installment.

      But I do think you make a good point that Romance readers want that HEA and they want it now. They don’t want to be left with the heroine tied to the railroad tracks until next week. Although if one in particular ever catches on, then the genre may become more accepting. Thanks for coming by!

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  4. Sheri Fredricks says:

    I like a series book, but each one must have an HEA and end. I haven’t cared for those that leave you hanging until the next book comes out. Because by then, I’ve forgotten what the story was about.

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    • Jenna Jaxon says:

      That’s what I’m afraid will happen now that my schedule is off. Even in a series, books are spaced sometimes a year apart. However, the stories are different. I think people are very ingrained with wanting an HEA at the end of each book. I tried to give that, but I guess not quite enough. Thanks for giving me your input, Sheri. 🙂

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  5. Sue says:

    What a fascinating concept. I don’t think I would like reading serialized novels, but novels which are part of a series have similar issues. In thinking how I could publish in this area, the question my muse asked is: does each “book” have a complete plot/character arc?

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    • Jenna Jaxon says:

      In my case yes, I believe each Book of the novel has a complete plot, although the endings of the first two books are Happy for Now, rather than Happy Ever After. Still, they leave something about the relationship unfulfilled. Hence the next book. Thanks for coming by, Sue!

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  6. My experience as a writer of serialized novels is a mixed bag, much as you pointed out in your article. One difference between you and I, though, is that in my case, the people who were reading my novels as serials knew what they were getting into really, really well. There was no question in their minds that the novel would not end with chapter 1, 2, etc. They were told how many chapters were in the serial and it was clear when they went back for the last week that the end would be there for them. They specifically went to Bethany’s Woodshed knowing that serials were the mode of delivery there.

    I don’t think there’s anything wrong with serialization. I think the notice to the reader has to be very clear from the outset. Bearing that in mind, you’re still going to get readers who don’t read the warnings and are dissatisfied. That’s unavoidable.

    Considering how well you write, you might have been better off with the 150K novel all at once. You’d certainly capture the readers’ attention, and (same as for serialized novels) if it was clear that they were getting 150K words, that might actually get you readers rather than turn them away. Or at least it would be a wash.

    I’m sure you’ll find your way with this, Jenna.

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    • Jenna Jaxon says:

      It’s really hard to say what might have happened with a 150k novel, Trish. I’m sure it would have scared off some readers, though those who picked it up would hopefully have finished it. The biggest problem right now is getting the rest of it out as quickly as possible. Lesson learned. Anything I self-publish henceforth that has multiple parts will be completed before the first one is published so I can control the timing. If I go through an outside publisher, I guess I won’t have that sort of control, unfortunately. Another pro for self-publishing I suppose.

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      • I think you’ve got the right idea with having it all ready before you begin publishing. Without a doubt, this will all be a good experience for you. Who’d have known it would be this complicated? Certainly, I had no idea. I’m learning from you! 🙂

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  7. D'Ann says:

    I don’t want to read a serial novel (sorry!). I want my ending and I want it now!. Good luck with it, Jenna!

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  8. I think part of the problem is that many readers aren’t used to them any more, and think the end is the end. Tweeted and shared on FB.

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    • Jenna Jaxon says:

      I think you’re right, Ella. Some of the feedback I’ve gotten indicates that the reader didn’t realize there was more to come in the next book. We are very used to series, where we go from couple to couple, but no so much where it is the same couple working out their conflict through three books. In the case of Betrothal’s ending, it’s not the end of the story, just the end of the beginning of the story.

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  9. Daryl Devore says:

    Publish your books the way you think the story should be written. You write awesome stories and don’t need to be stuck in the standard box. Do your own thing Jenna, soon you’ll be leading the pack.

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    • Jenna Jaxon says:

      Thanks, Daryl! 🙂 Well, the way it should have been published–one very long book– I don’t think people would have read it. I’m not Diana Gabaldon or Stephen King and although I personally love long novels, apparently a lot of folks don’t. Once they all are out, I could, of course, offer Time Enough to Love as a single title. But as long as readers pick it up knowing that Betrothal is not the end of the story, I have no problem publishing it in three parts.

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  10. Margaret Watkins says:

    I don’t enjoy serialised novels. Once put together, the whole novel generally works out a lot more expensive than purchasing even an expensive book. Also finding the follow ups can be a problem, and I keep having to refresh my memory trying to recall what happened before. I skip over them.

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    • Jenna Jaxon says:

      Thank you for weighing in on this topic, Margaret. I’m sure there are many people who would prefer to just read the whole book. But would you necessarily pick up a book that was 150,000 words? There are those in romance fiction, like Diana Gabaldon, who have a huge following for her huge books (me included), but to those who prefer shorter fiction, it’s a turn off. When all three books of Time Enough to Love are published, I’ll be issuing them in print as a boxed set, so those who haven’t read it as a serial can read it as one book if they choose.

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  11. I am reading a serialized romance now and am enjoying it. Each week I get a scene but if for some reason I miss a week or two all I need do is scroll to the missed scenes. Also, next week I’ll be starting a serialized book for my readers.
    I think it’s a good way to get new readers.

    Like

    • Jenna Jaxon says:

      I sure hope so, Lindsay! I think there’s going to be a wide variety of responses to this question, though. And I know some people want a book it all at once. But good luck with your serialized book! And thanks for coming by!

      Like

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